Category: Lent

Ash Wednesday Devotion: Disappointment with God and Persistent Hope

By Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon

What does it mean to have Persistent Hope in the midst of disappointment and despair? Over the next 40 days of Lent, this is the theme we will be wrestling with, praying through, and seeking to understand as we wait together and long for Easter morning. This is our question and prayer as we seek peace and work toward justice in the Middle East.

Looking toward the Middle East, there are many realities that bring disappointment. An independent and viable State of Palestine does not seem to be a reality that will come to fruition anytime soon. The occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza continues and will soon enter into its 52nd year. The United States continues to manifest hubris and abuse its power by intervening in unconstructive ways, at best. None of the parties involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have any faith the Trump Peace plan will break the decades long status quo and make any constructive strides toward peace. Beyond Palestine, the United States’ continual support of Saudi Arabia and Coalition forces intervening in Yemen’s civil war constitute only one additional example of harmful U.S. interventions. The list could go on. Read more

Advent II: Peace

“[During] the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” Luke 3.2-6


During the season of Advent, Christians across the world wait with eager expectation for the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. While we celebrate Jesus’ arrival and the ways in which he modeled how we are to live, it is no doubt troubling to many how far away we are from the peace Jesus preached. From the rise of white supremacy in the United States, to the continued conflicts in the Middle East, we seem to be moving in the opposite direction of Peace. For those of us committed to a just, lasting, and peaceful resolution to the conflict in Israel/Palestine, and throughout the Middle East; we might wonder if our efforts are in vain. Read more

Pentecost: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

While staying with them, Jesus ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Acts 1:4-5

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Acts 2:1-4

Before ascending into heaven, Jesus told his disciples to remain in Jerusalem, for it was there they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Shortly after his ascension the day of Pentecost came, and the Holy Spirit descended, first like a violent wind, then as divided tongues of fire. As each tongue rested on them, they began to speak in other languages that were not their own. While this is miraculous in and of itself, it is also a profound statement of the power of the Holy Spirit to allow us to understand those who are other, those who are not like us. To speak another language is to catch a glimpse into another person’s mind. Read more

Easter Sunday: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Then Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
Luke 24:44-47

Hallelujah! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Throughout this Lenten season we have walked with Jesus as he performed miracles, taught in parables, and wept over the city of Jerusalem. We have also taken a closer look at the city of Jerusalem todaywhy it is considered holy by the three Abrahamic religions, and its contemporary political situation. It is only fitting that we reflect on Jesus’ command after his resurrection, when he appeared to his disciples. Read more

Holy Saturday: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:5

Today, on Holy Saturday, the sacred light or “Holy Fire”—the fire that lights the tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem—comes out into the world. The fire from the tomb is spread from candle to candle all over the church and throughout the streets of the Old City—a powerful symbol of the way that Christ’s light is spread into the world. However, many of us still feel as though we are in darkness, and that Christ’s light has not yet come to us. Read more

Good Friday: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Luke 23:44-49

A common African American spiritual sung on Good Friday goes, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Of course, none of us were there, yet we remember this event, today. Some of us will hear readings of Jesus’ seven last words found in the Gospels. Others will sit in candlelit churches and feel the darkness creep in as each candle is extinguished. Many will sing hymns, as music has a way of capturing the deep emotions we often struggle to articulate. Read more

Maundy Thursday: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Jesus came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.
Luke 22:39-44

Today marks the point in Holy Week when we enter more deeply into the Passion narrative, the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. As we continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, these devotions will turn our attention more directly to the Passion story, focusing on events as they are recounted in the Gospels, and how they are remembered and celebrated in Jerusalem today. Read more

Palm Sunday: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

As Jesus was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
Luke 19:37-42

In our passage today, Jesus has entered the city of Jerusalem in triumph. He is greeted by the multitudes as a king; making the events that would transpire in the following days, his arrest and death, even more ironic. As he entered the city of Jerusalem upon the road that is now known as the Triumphal Entry, the multitude of disciples praised God, saying: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Jesus was the king they had all been waiting for, the king who would save them from their oppression while under Roman rule. Read more

Fifth Week of Lent: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Isaiah 58:6-7

During the Lenten season, Christians around the world partake in the practice of fasting. Fasting is the tradition of abstaining from food for a set period of time. While this custom is often a spiritual discipline which leads to greater faith in God, or allows space in one’s life for God to speak, that is not always the case. In the passage above, the community is being called out for the misuse of this practice. Instead of only requiring the abstaining from food, God reveals to them the kind of fasting required; the kind that changes society to be more just, brings freedom to the oppressed, and cares for the poor. Read more

Fourth Week of Lent: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. So the servant returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.
Luke 14:16-18a, 21-24

In chapter 9 of Luke’s gospel, Jesus sets his mind to go to Jerusalem. The rest of the gospel is focused on this journey towards his death and resurrection, and all that he does in between must be read in light of this. While at dinner with some people, he tells the parable we read today, about a man who invited many people to join him at his banquet table. When they would not come, he sent his servant out to the streets to invite all the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame—all those marginalized by society. After the servant had done so, there was still room at the table, so the man ordered him to go back out and compel more people to come, so that his house might be filled. All are welcome at the banquet table of God, regardless of their socioeconomic status, physical ability, race, religion, or nationality. The feast was prepared, and the man would not allow it to go uneaten. Read more

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